May 2nd, 2012
Tough times are ahead in the airline industry. Fuel costs are going up, people have less money to travel, which means it's getting harder to fill flights.
So, what are they to do?
Over the past year we've seen a few innovative ideas popping up all over the place, like BA's massive drive to reduce use of auxiliary power units and descaling toilet pipes on their Boeing 747 and 777s, among other things. Of course there have also been the more odd and extreme methods, like removing toilets from aircrafts altogether and asking flight attendants to lose weight. Both implemented by Ryanair.
While we haven't seen anything quite so extreme here on home turf, fans of budget airline Kulula were quite shocked and somewhat disappointed to find them applying the dreaded "piece concept" as opposed to the usual "weight concept" at the end of last year, something many have labeled as being a clear revenue drive.
Basically what this means: customers get to check one bag in that weighs less than 20 kg. Any bag weighing more than this will be charged a once off fee of R250.
Furthermore, if customers want to check-in an extra bag they will have to dock up a fee of R300, regardless of the total weight of their luggage.
Compared to the between R25 and R30 per kilogram charged by other low-cost airlines for extra luggage, it really is no wonder loyal customers have been in a bit of a huff, not to mention sportsmen and musicians.
These are a few of the comments we received on the article we ran late last year:
- "do travel a fair bit with Kulula & only sometimes I might be 1 or 2kg's over weight, I also take my Camera bag along, although not that big, it is a hobby of mine. I do not see me paying these costs & will use someone else. It will only be in a real emergancey I fly with them now" - Desmond
- "Bye Kulula - Thank goodness it's not the only airline flying the popular routes. I'll fly with someone else in future, thanks," said Charles.
- And from an anonymous reader: "It's an easy way to make extra bucks from unsuspecting customers over the holiday season. Air France have a similar system. You are each allowed 1 bag at 23 kg each. If you share a bag with your wife and are 1kg over the 23, they merrily charge you 100 euro as they don't permit you to pool the weight as is the norm on most airlines."
As the last one points out, this is not altogether a foreign concept in the airline world. In fact it is implemented by all international airlines on routes across the Atlantic Ocean, mostly to/from North America.
For instance, SAA implements the so-called "piece concept" on their flights to, from and between the USA, Brazil and Canada. Their allowance is 2 pieces with 23 kg (50lb) each and maximum dimensions of 158 cm (62 inches) each for economy class and 2 pieces with 32 kg (70lb) each and maximum dimensions of 158 cm (62 inches) for business and first class, with exceptions here and there.
Lufthansa, on the other hand, made waves last year when they announced that they would be doing away with the weight concept altogether on all their global flights, replacing it with a more convenient piece concept. While they do have exceptions for sporting equipment, their excess baggage charges of 50 Euros for each flight leg and 150 Euros for long-haul flights, have had many passengers up in arms.
Shortly after this, Swiss Airlines also announced that they were standardizing and simplifying their baggage policy, implementing the piece concept on all their flights worldwide.
So, while Kulula got quite a tongue lashing from many South Africans, could it be that they were just keeping up with international trends?